Gateway to the Classics: A First Book in American History by Edward Eggleston
A First Book in American History by  Edward Eggleston

Something about the Spanish War

The war with Spain took place in 1898. It was caused by two things. For many years there had been a rebellion against Spain in Cuba. Our people were very sorry for the Cuban people, who were treated cruelly. This made the Spaniard angry at the United States. One of our war ships, the Maine, was sent to the harbor of Havana [ha-van´-a], to protect Americans there. It was blown up in the night and two hundred and sixty-six men on board were killed. An examination showed that it was blown up by something placed against the outside of the ship. This aroused the American people. Congress demanded that Spain should take her armies away from Cuba. This she refused to do, and war was declared.

When war was declared, there was an American fleet in Chinese waters. There was a Spanish fleet at Manila [ma-nil´a] in the Philippine [fil´ip-in] Islands, which belonged to Spain. Commodore Dewey, who commanded the American fleet, sailed to Manila as soon as he heard of the beginning of the war.

Not finding the Spanish fleet outside of the harbor, he sailed into the great Bay of Manila very silently. This was about midnight before the morning of the first day of May. All the lights on the ships that could have been seen from the shore were put out, so that the last ship was passing the batteries at the entrance to the bay before the alarm was given. At daylight the ships gave battle to the Spanish fleet, which was protected by shore batteries. It seemed certain that some, if not all, of the American ships would be sunk by the heavy guns on shore, but the Spanish gunners were not equal to those of the American ships, who had given much attention to target practice. The Spaniards fought bravely, but their shore batteries were silenced and their fleet destroyed by the American fire. The American fleet did not lose a single man in the fight.


Battle of Manila Bay

A Spanish fleet sent from Spain to attack the American coast towns took refuge in the harbor of Santiago [sahn-te-ah´go] in Cuba. The harbor was so well protected that the American fleet could not enter it. An army was landed to the east of the city of Santiago to take it by land. One portion of this army was sent to take the little village of El Caney [ca-nay´] at the north, and another was sent to wait in front of the hill of San Juan [hoo-ahn´] and capture that after El Caney was taken. But the men in front of the batteries of San Juan found themselves under fire. Many of them were killed. They could not retreat, for the narrow road behind them was crowded. They were not willing to stay where they were and be slaughtered. So they resolved about noon to attack the Spaniards in the batteries ahead of them. "If you don't wish to go along," said the colonel of the regiment known as the Rough Riders, "let my men pass, please." But the men to whom he spoke did wish to go along. They fell into line and followed Roosevelt [rose´-velt], who led a desperate charge on horseback. In another part of the line a veteran general, Hawkins, rode at the head of his men, waving his hat. Slowly up the hill marched the Americans under a deadly fire, until at last they carried the trenches and blockhouse at the summit with a rush.

Three miles away, at El Caney, a yet more stubborn fight was raging. The Americans in the thick of it were commanded by General Chaffee, who made his men lie down but who stood erect himself. A button was shot off his coat, and one of his shoulder straps was torn by bullets. At last the works at El Caney were carried. These battles took place on the 1st of July.

Two days after the battles by which the Americans carried the Spanish trenches, the American ships were watching the mouth of the harbor as usual. To their surprise the Spanish fleet was seen coming out from Santiago. The Spanish ships tried to escape by running to the westward. But the American ships pursued and fought them until one after another of the Spanish vessels was sunk or set on fire. The American sailors rescued as many as possible of the drowning Spaniards, and treated them kindly. The city of Santiago was soon after surrendered. After these successes of the Americans it was impossible for Spain to continue her resistance long. Peace was made at last. As a result of the war Spain gave up her authority over Cuba, Porto Rico [re?co], and the Philippine Islands.

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